By: Leland Flynn III
I have always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for puzzle games, specifically action-puzzle games. I played Lemmings more than was probably healthy when I was little boy but it taught me a lot about how to use logic and spatial (albeit 2D) reasoning. Of course I love puzzle games because they are fun for me, but deeper than this is the fact that they are fun because they pose a challenge, a threat to my self-image as an intelligent person.
Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
The mechanics of Waveform couldn’t be simpler. You play as a wave/particle of light moving through space and your goal is to gather up other red, green or blue light particles. When you begin a level you simply click and hold the left mouse button to begin your wave. You control the height (amplitude) by moving the mouse forward or backward and the width (wavelength) by moving left to right. Your particle of light travels across the waveform that you are controlling like a track, speeding up when you tighten the wave and slowing down when you stretch it out. This simple control scheme is what makes the game both accessible and very challenging as you will eventually be required to start predicting and timing the movement of objects in a level in order to either avoid or touch them.
The goal of each level is to gather as much of the other particles as you can without making contact with dangerous objects such as the little square bombs that seem to just pepper open space. As you play through levels you will see that you are charting a path, albeit a meandering one, through our galaxy. As your wave passes by large objects things tend to get a bit crazy. One of my favorite levels involved you passing by a pulsar. Every few seconds the entire screen would go dark for a moment leaving you to rely on your memory of what you last saw on screen to avoid obstacles and collect particles. One level proved to be particularly maddening for me as some sort of “spatial distortion” started warping and deforming my wave. I have to admit that I did not enjoy this level at all but it was one negative against a sea of positives – I grew a pair and dealt with it. There are quite a few moments such as the former and a few more like the latter throughout Waveform’s 100+ levels and the difficulty scales well with each of them.
Over time the game will introduce all manner of objects that can alter how you move through a level. One of the most common of these being mirrors that you can use to bounce your wave off of to alter your course or reach difficult particles. These can make a level very difficult for you once you get further in to the game and they start rotating on you. With each new level a layer of difficulty is finely layered on allowing the challenge of the game to increase greatly without beating you over the head with it.
Pretty Colors and Nice Sounds
Everything in this game has a slick but simple design to it. An economy of form you might say. This unassuming style coupled with such vibrant color and dynamism makes it a joy to look at. The backgrounds give a real sense of tranquility even when the game itself is getting hectic. I honestly can’t find a thing wrong with the graphics in this game.
I have equal praise for the music of Waveform. The soundtrack, created by Scott McFadyen is easily one of my favorites right now. I would put it up there with Danny Baranowsky’s work on The Binding of Isaac and Terrence Lee’s soundtrack for Dustforce. Much like the visuals in Waveform, its soundtrack only ever gets as complicated as it needs to be. I would hesitate to call it sparse and concise seems too clinical. Fitting seems like a good way to describe it; the music just feels natural to every level and it’s quite clear that a lot of consideration was put into this.
My two issues with this game are not strictly game-breaking but can be frustrating enough to make me wonder how they didn’t catch them in testing. I’m sorry to say that I regularly experienced an issue with my controls sticking if I moved my mouse too far to the left. I would eventually regain control but there were a few times where this persisted long enough to completely ruin my progress. Without getting to technically deep here I am inclined to think that this is something of a cursor focus issue; that the game tracks your cursor (even though you do not see it) and if you go too far to the left you are leaving its bounds of detection. I was hesitant to mention this at first as I thought it might be an isolated incident with my computer but I have since seen many forum posts from users complaining of the same issue.
My other, more minor, gripe is with the collision detection of some objects. I had a few instances where it was very apparent that I crossed paths with an abject and should have made contact but simply didn’t. This was a minor annoyance and cropped up infrequently but it was still bad enough that I am unsure of how it got missed.
Final Thoughts – Is It Worth Your Money?
Plain and simple, Waveform is a great game. For a asking price of $5.95, you will be getting a hefty game. It’s visually very pleasing to look at and again I cannot stress just how good the soundtrack is. I couldn’t fault you for buying this game, if for nothing else than to listen to the music but, you should probably, you know, play it too. With such simple controls and challenging gameplay I think casual gamers and seasoned puzzle game veterans will both enjoy this title.
Waveform Technical Summary
- Time Played – 3 Hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – Cursor Focus issues causing sticky controls
- DRM – Steamworks
- Control Scheme – Mouse
- System Specs – Core2 Quad @ 3GHz, 4GB RAM, 1GB Radeon 4850
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Steam
- Demo – Yes